My wife is a companion, a partner."
"Nothing more. As to the heart--"
She is pretty, though."
"Yes, but I do not put myself out about her."
He drew closer to Clotilde, and whispered. "When shall we see one another again?"
"To-morrow, if you like."
"Yes, to-morrow at two o'clock."
He rose to take leave, and then stammered, with some embarrassment:
"You know I shall take on the rooms in the Rue de Constantinople myself.
I mean it.
A nice thing for the rent to be paid by you."
It was she who kissed his hands adoringly, murmuring:
"Do as you like.
It is enough for me to have kept them for us to meet again there."
Du Roy went away, his soul filled with satisfaction.
As he passed by a photographer's, the portrait of a tall woman with large eyes reminded him of Madame Walter.
"All the same," he said to himself, "she must be still worth looking at.
How is it that I never noticed it?
I want to see how she will receive me on Thursday?"
He rubbed his hands as he walked along with secret pleasure, the pleasure of success in every shape, the egotistical joy of the clever man who is successful, the subtle pleasure made up of flattered vanity and satisfied sensuality conferred by woman's affection.
On the Thursday he said to Madeleine:
"Are you not coming to the assault-at-arms at Rival's?"
It would not interest me. I shall go to the Chamber of Deputies."
He went to call for Madame Walter in an open landau, for the weather was delightful.
He experienced a surprise on seeing her, so handsome and young-looking did he find her.
She wore a light-colored dress, the somewhat open bodice of which allowed the fullness of her bosom to be divined beneath the blonde lace.
She had never seemed to him so well-looking.
He thought her really desirable.
She wore her calm and ladylike manner, a certain matronly bearing that caused her to pass almost unnoticed before the eyes of gallants.
She scarcely spoke besides, save on well-known, suitable, and respectable topics, her ideas being proper, methodical, well ordered, and void of all extravagance.
Her daughter, Susan, in pink, looked like a newly-varnished Watteau, while her elder sister seemed the governess entrusted with the care of this pretty doll of a girl.
Before Rival's door a line of carriages were drawn up.
Du Roy offered Madame Walter his arm, and they went in.
The assault-at-arms was given under the patronage of the wives of all the senators and deputies connected with the _Vie Francaise_, for the benefit of the orphans of the Sixth Arrondissement of Paris.
Madame Walter had promised to come with her daughters, while refusing the position of lady patroness, for she only aided with her name works undertaken by the clergy. Not that she was very devout, but her marriage with a Jew obliged her, in her own opinion, to observe a certain religious attitude, and the gathering organized by the journalist had a species of Republican import that might be construed as anti-clerical.
In papers of every shade of opinion, during the past three weeks, paragraphs had appeared such as:
"Our eminent colleague, Jacques Rival, has conceived the idea, as ingenious as it is generous, of organizing for the benefit of the orphans of the Sixth Arrondissement of Paris a grand assault-at-arms in the pretty fencing-room attached to his apartments.
The invitations will be sent out by Mesdames Laloigue, Remontel, and Rissolin, wives of the senators bearing these names, and by Mesdames Laroche-Mathieu, Percerol, and Firmin, wives of the well-known deputies.
A collection will take place during the interval, and the amount will at once be placed in the hands of the mayor of the Sixth Arrondissement, or of his representative."
It was a gigantic advertisement that the clever journalist had devised to his own advantage.
Jacques Rival received all-comers in the hall of his dwelling, where a refreshment buffet had been fitted up, the cost of which was to be deducted from the receipts.
He indicated with an amiable gesture the little staircase leading to the cellar, saying:
"Downstairs, ladies, downstairs; the assault will take place in the basement."
He darted forward to meet the wife of the manager, and then shaking Du Roy by the hand, said:
"How are you, Pretty-boy?"
His friend was surprised, and exclaimed: